South Africa has moved to Level 4, as of 1 May 2020. The regulations relating to the Schedule of Services and Framework of Sectors has been gazetted and was released on 29 April 2020. Despite the release of the regulations, confusion remains on a few issues, with many people interpreting the regulations to suit their needs and or wants. The new regulations promulgated are not simply an addendum to the previous regulations, they instead repeal the previous regulations in their entirety.
After only one day from the shift down to Level 4, the confirmed Covid-19 infections in South Africa have risen to 5 951. This is an increase of 304 confirmed cases on Thursday’s figures. With 13 deaths recorded in the past 24 hours, this brings the total death count to 116. It is yet unclear how this rapid rise in infections will affect the government’s risk based strategy to contain the spread of the virus, however, one thing is for sure, it does not bode well for the average South African.
This lockdown has had an adverse effect on each and every person, with some feeling the pinch more acutely than others. One such sector has been the property industry. Primarily because many commercial landlords are being slapped with the “force majeure” defence to reduce rental payments and many residential landlords simply being unable to collect rental due by tenants(as the tenant has not received a wage). As such, the future looks bleak for property owners. Under Level 4 regulations, the eviction process may be started and even concluded. The caveat being that the order may only be effected the day after Level 4 restrictions have been lifted, unless a competent Court decides that it is not just and equitable to suspend the order until such time. The test for this will likely be very stringent, with judicial discretion more likely to err on the side of compassion and the spirit of Ubuntu (a legally recognised principle in South Africa), during this period. In a nutshell, you may consult with your attorney, have the eviction application drawn, issued at Court and even obtain a granted order, however, you will unable to practically take possession of your property, until such time that we have another level downgrade. In light of the uncertainty, property owners will remain apprehensive about their investments and we may see more and more forced sales, as a direct consequence of this uncertainty.
On a slightly positive note, Deeds offices are set to open on 4 May 2020, albeit with a reduced staff compliment. However, this reduced staff constituency, coupled with the backlog, inevitably translates to significant delays. The silver lining though, will be that the processing of transfers will provide some much needed revenue to various sectors who have undoubtedly suffered losses during the lockdown.
We have of late, been bombarded by the phrase “this is the new normal”. My question is, what is normal? As a nation plagued with poor governance, uncontrolled crime and mass poverty, South Africa is no stranger to hard times, however, our people are a resilient nation. South Africans have always been able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move forward. We did it after apartheid, we did it after the world financial crisis in 2008 and we can surely do it now against the Covid-19 Pandemic. We are a people of optimism and determination and if we unite we can become a nation of immeasurable potential. Instead of focusing on the short comings of the regulations (and there are many,) let us instead focus on helping those in need in any little way we can. While the challenges we face as a nation may seem unending, we should take comfort in knowing that we are all in this together.